On Thursday, two bills supported by Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh (R,C-Ballston), adding ease and efficiency to the court process in Saratoga County, were signed into law by Gov. Hochul. The bills will allow the electronic appearance of a defendant (A.10435, Walsh) and increase the number of family court judges in the county by one (A.10505, Lavine).
Supported by all Assembly members from Saratoga County, the bills passed unanimously during the last week of the 2022 Legislative Session.
The electronic appearance legislation, sponsored by Walsh and Sen. Daphne Jordan (R,C-Halfmoon), would add Saratoga County to the list of twenty-seven counties and five boroughs of New York City that are already authorized to conduct electronic court appearances under certain conditions. While this practice was often used throughout the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing courts to have the ability to hold electronic appearances will improve the criminal justice process for both the defendant and the county.
“By utilizing audio-visual technology, defendants will be able to have their cases heard before a judge more expeditiously than what current practices allow,” said Walsh. “This measure will not only produce significant cost savings associated with holding and transportation of the defendant, but also an extra level of safety and security in the process.”
“I’m thrilled to partner with Assemblywoman Walsh to get Senate Bill 9350 passed and deliver real results for Saratoga County,” said Jordan. “Permitting electronic court appearances was a practice used out of necessity during the COVID pandemic and proved beneficial. It allows detainees to participate in legal proceedings from a designated space through a two-way, closed-circuit, audio-visual system rather than being physically transported to a Saratoga County Court. Making it permanent for Saratoga County will cut costs by reducing the number of transports while enhancing public safety.”
The family court legislation stems from conversations with current family court judges, starting in the fall of 2020, who approached state representatives of Saratoga County seeking assistance alleviating increased caseloads. Continued growth county-wide over the last several years has resulted in court congestion and a backlog that can be detrimental to children and families.
The measure was part of an omnibus bill which added justices to Nassau County and New York City Family Court Systems, as well as additions to the number of justices in the state Supreme Court in several districts throughout the state - including the 4th Judicial District which encompasses Walsh’s Assembly District.
“I’m grateful to the stakeholders at the local level who expressed support for this measure and to my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, for helping to get the legislation across the finish line ahead of the conclusion of the 2022 Legislative Session,” said Walsh. “The addition of one family court judge in Saratoga County will help address the critical needs of the vulnerable children in our communities.”